If anyone learned from the chaos of President Donald Trump’s last travel ban, it’s the group of lawyers volunteering legal help for passengers landing at O’Hare Airport.
Anticipating a new travel ban as soon as this week to replace the one halted by courts nationwide, lawyers and interpreters are bracing to ramp up their shifts.
The mood at the airport might be on edge as the group waits for the new ban, but immigration attorney Vivian Khalaf said the current staff schedule working from 8 a.m. through midnight is looking to extend the schedule to 18 hours if the demand increases.
“We’re 100 percent ready, rolling and able,” Khalaf said.
Khalaf said that although the lawyers, who have been stationed at Terminal 5 for about a month, have seen a decrease of travelers from the seven Muslim-majority countries included in the original executive order, they have received complaints of detentions and deportations of travelers coming from Mexico, Nigeria, Poland and Jamaica.
Officials with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office were not available for comment.
The Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which launched the Travelers Assistance Project within a week of Trump’s first immigration ban, is also anticipating to help more Muslims who have questions and concerns.
CAIR-Chicago spokeswoman Hoda Katebi said travelers can register their flight information and keep in touch with the organization to monitor any difficulties when traveling. Additionally, a group of volunteer attorneys acting as a liaison between the group of O’Hare lawyers and travelers are available for legal counsel.
CAIR-Chicago also provides personal or phone interpreting services at the airport for Muslim travelers who don’t speak English. There are also travel alert updates and a fact sheet published on civil rights organization website.
Ed Yohnka, a spokesman with the American Civil Liberties Union in Illinois, said the organization is gathering additional information about those who have been detained and why. The ACLU is also looking into possible litigation as Trump prepares to unveil his new executive order, Yohnka said.
“The chaos of last time cannot be repeated,” Yohnka said. “We’re gearing up.”
Tips for those landing at O’Hare from an international flight
• For non-U.S. residents and non-green card holders traveling to the U.S. in the near future, Immigration Attorney Vivian Khalaf advises erasing everything on their social media accounts and electronic devices.
• Permanent U.S. residents and citizens should refuse to sign documents or give any information without the presence of legal counsel if detained or questioned by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, immigration attorney Vivian Khalaf added.
• CAIR-Chicago spokeswoman Hoda Katebi recommends travelers landing at O’Hare register with the organization, lock their phones or store them before going through U.S. customs. Katebi also said travelers should refuse to sign any document without a lawyer present.